Roots Rock from Chicago’s West Side
Imagine Johnny Cash joining the Faces after Rod Stewart left and you get an idea of what kind of music you can expect when hearing the YellowHammers. Their wistful songs make a u-turn just before reaching melancholy and head in the direction of salvation. Loose not sloppy, tender not soft, forlorn not pitiful, hopeful. Their songs reveal the musical influence of Neil Young, Led Zeppelin and the Stones and the lyric influence of Hank Williams and Lou Reed. Pierce’s vocals betray the influence of Levon Helm or early Elton John. The Chicago Tribune said, “The songs are almost as beautiful as they are haunting.”
The YellowHammers began as a trio in 1994, after Kevin James, Rob Pierce and Terry White left Los Angeles and regrouped in Chicago. Since then they have added Phil Levin (drums) and Tom Kneesel (pedal steel, guitar). The band’s influences are rooted in the American blend of rock that draws from blues and country and western. “See us today, enjoy it,” declares Pierce, “it won’t be the same tomorrow.” That certainly is true but the basic rock songwriting and energy remains the same.
The YellowHammers fourth and latest recording is self-titled. It’s as if the band is brand new. With this recording they have created new life. The disc opens with “Everybody’s Joking”, a greeting to a missing legend who has returned, not in triumph, but in defeat, as he spills back to where it all began, the local tavern. From there, we hear a lullaby sung to our planet, a misguided chase for a lost love, a tale of police corruption, an ode to the king.
The YellowHammers add to a rich catalog of songs that are teeming with scenes and characters that are confused, lost, gone, sincere, honorable and salvaged on the shoulders of each other. The band’s previous releases include Satellite, All the People Some of the Time and Suffer Fools Gladly. Their songs have been featured on Chicago’s radio stations, WXRT, WCKG and WLUW. Pierce, White and James have played together all over the country, from LA’s Whiskey-A-Go-Go to NY’s CBGB. They have shared the stage and studio with artists ranging from Joe Walsh and Billy Preston to Jane’s Addiction and Smashing Pumpkins.